|Pat White returns from injury, but can't lead W.Va. to national title game|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 01 December 2007 19:29|
White missed much of the Mountaineers' 13-9 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday night after he was injured in the second quarter, and West Virginia's explosive offense never recovered.
The Mountaineers (10-2, 5-2), who had already clinched the Big East's automatic berth to the Bowl Championship Series, now must wait until Sunday night when the BCS lineup is announced to see their postseason destination.
West Virginia became the latest in a long line of second-ranked teams to fall this season, but none came on a bigger stage. The Mountaineers have never won a national championship.
Heavy favorite West Virginia had averaged 42 points per game and 310 rushing yards this season, but history has shown anything can happen in the Backyard Brawl.
It was the Mountaineers' lowest output of the season, surpassing the 13 points they scored in a loss to South Florida.
``It was just frustrating we weren't able to put the ball in the end zone. It hurts,'' White said. ``But everything happens for a reason.''
White was hurt on a keeper with 5:12 left in the second quarter when he fell awkwardly on his right hand. It marked the third time this season that White was hurt in a game. He injured a chest muscle against Syracuse and a thigh against South Florida.
Trainers wrapped his hand in ice and White didn't return until midway through the fourth.
White said it was his decision to come back.
``I just wanted to help the team as much as I can,'' he said. ``It was killing me sitting on the sidelines.''
Backup Jarrett Brown replaced White after he was initially injured and led West Virginia to the game's opening points, finishing the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run. But Brown and the Mountaineers couldn't muster any offense afterward.
Vaughn Rivers fumbled the kickoff to open the second half, leading to a Pittsburgh touchdown. West Virginia ran just four offensive plays in the third quarter.
Brown's fourth-quarter fumble at the West Virginia 23 led to an 18-yard field goal by Conor Lee that put Pittsburgh ahead 13-7.
Noel Devine returned the ensuing kickoff 48 yards to the Pittsburgh 33 with 6:08 left. White then returned for the first time since the first half but the Mountaineers turned the ball over on four plays.
West Virginia got another chance with 3 minutes left. White threw a 20-yard pass to Darius Reynaud to the Pittsburgh 33 and White ran 12 yards on the next play to the 21. But White fumbled on a keeper to set up fourth-and-17 from the 28 and he threw incomplete in the end zone to snuff out the Mountaineers' chances.
``Pat's a great player, but it didn't make a difference,'' Pittsburgh coach Dave Wannstedt said. ``You want to play your best game last, and I think we did.''
West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez said he sensed a bit of an emotional letdown after White's injury but the team had confidence in Brown.
``The offense missed a lot of opportunities, but I always felt we were going to pull it out, even at the end,'' Rodriguez said. ``We had two great opportunities with great field position and did not execute. The story of the game.''
White had thrust himself into the Heisman Trophy race by rushing for at least 100 yards in his four previous games as the Mountaineers clinched the Big East title and a berth in the Bowl Championship Series. The junior has 1,177 yards and 14 rushing TDs this season, along with 1,528 yards passing and 12 scores.
He had surpassed 200 rushing yards in his two previous games against Pittsburgh.
Yet in a game White had called the biggest of his life, little worked.
``Pat White is a champion,'' Brown said. ``He will bounce back from it.''